Photo Information

A U.S. Marine observes aircraft coming onto the flight line with a precision approach radar system on MCAS Camp Pendleton, Calif., Aug. 11.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Andrew Cortez

Marines set up, execute expeditionary ATC operations on MCAS Camp Pendleton

18 Aug 2020 | Lance Cpl. Andrew Cortez Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton

For the month of August, U.S. Marines with 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing and Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, California, will be putting their air traffic control skills to the test in an expeditionary environment.

Marines with Marine Air Control Squadron 1, Marine Air Control Group 38, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, worked with Marines from Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, MCAS Camp Pendleton, to set up an Air Traffic Navigation, Integration and Coordination System over the last few days and conducted their first flight check August 11.

The ATNAVICS is set up in the middle of the MCAS Camp Pendleton flight line, giving the air traffic control Marines of H&HS the best possible view of the airspace around them. Between ATNAVICS and their own eyes, they control the airspace for 30 nautical miles.

The training will simulate deployment conditions and get the Marines familiar with high-stress, real-time conditions.

 “This training is amazing because it lets you see what you are actually doing when it comes to landing actual aircraft.” Sgt. Anthony Latassa, 3rd MAW radar maintenance chief

“During this 30 day training exercise we have our station Marines learning how to provide expeditionary services and precision approach radar services to any aircraft,” said U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Aaron Mondloch, the air traffic control radar chief with H&HS, MCAS Camp Pendleton.

Over the course of four days, MACS-1 conducted a site survey, emplaced the gear and then set it up. Now that the Federal Aviation Administration flight check has been completed, the Marines have been certified to control all of the air traffic coming into and out of MCAS Camp Pendleton. While the Marines are all familiar with the airspace itself, controlling it from a small group of tents on the flight line is a new experience for most of them.

“If we take Marines to a place they have never been and equipment they have never worked with, there is going to be a learning curve,” said Mondloch. “This is not just training they need to get familiar with on the flight line, but where the time calls for it as well.”

Controlling Aircraft Photo by Lance Cpl. Andrew Cortez
A U.S. Marine looks over an Air Traffic Navigation, Integration and Coordination System on Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, Calif., Aug. 11.

This training not only applies in a combat environment, but can also be used whenever expeditionary airfield operations are necessary, such as when Marines are conducting humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.

“It’s nice that we get to do this in the comfort of our own backyard essentially,” said Sgt. Anthony Latassa, the radar maintenance chief for MACS-1, MACG-38, 3rd MAW. “This is a nice runway that they get to practice on, but we train them to know that not every situation is going to be like this.”

Allowing the Marines to conduct this training on an established air station permitted them to receive the full training experience, from setting up the gear to guiding in and landing actual aircraft.

“This training is amazing because it lets you see what you are actually doing when it comes to landing actual aircraft,” said Latassa. “This is big picture stuff, and exposing our junior Marines to it early is great because they will already be trained to handle the stress if they ever have to employ this system in the future.”